Virtual Worlds News commissioned a report from Dubit Research on the virtual habits of 7- to 12-year-olds, and discovered some interesting implications for advertisers. Of 600 tweens surveyed, 73 percent said they belonged to a virtual world, with 43 percent palling around at Disney’s Club Penguin and 27 percent hanging at Habbo Hotel. The proliferation numbers are similar to those reported by the under-12 demographic in Nielsen’s summer survey (PDF link) of 40,000 British Internet users under 23—though Stardoll was leading that survey, followed by Club Penguin. More important, the Dubit study included ad questions, noting that 45 percent of kids playing in virtual worlds noticed advertisements and sponsorships. Of those who noticed, their reaction was surprisingly positive. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most positive feelings, 70 percent rated virtual brand presence either a 4 (just under 30 percent) or a 5 (just over 40 percent). Ah, impressionable youth! The mounting influence of virtual worlds on tweens was one of the reasons CosmoGirl cited in calling it quits (and keeping their Web site up). But do virtual brand experiences equal offline sales? Disney’s Club Penguin hopes so. Its new line of toys is coming out next week, and each one comes with a code coin to unlock special items online. Despite the threat of online predators around every corner, the steady march of virtual branding to tweens waddles on.
—Posted by Rebecca Cullers